Saturday, May 27, 2006

An international lawyer and his pirate kangaroo.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Something of an inglorious start to the cricket season.

There is an unfortunate assumption in England that all Australians know how to play cricket. Fortunately for me the standard for entry into the Trinity Hall graduate cricket team is: “Have you eve caught a moving object?”

In the sense that it is vital a team have an eleventh man to be allowed to play, I am vital.

In fairness, I’m not a bad fielder. Not a particularly good one either. I can’t bowl, and can generally just about block a ball with a bat. My best contributions are probably made in close proximity to the score-board, or zealously guarding the boundary line from balls that slip past the inner ring of fielders.

Still, I like the standing about out doors, the occasional running, the ebb and flow of the game and the really devastatingly excellent afternoon teas put on by our MCR stewards and treasurer and usually billed as “as big as the whole world!”

Which would be true, if the world were made entirely of cucumber sandwiches, strawberries and cream and Pimms mixed according to our treasurer’s secret recipe.

So you’ll imagine things are looking a bit grim if I’m sent in to bat. In our first game Sunday against Churchill college, we bowled first and were set a chaseable target of 122 from 20 overs.

Unfortunately, we suffered a bit of a mini-collapse, and while the run rate was on target, we were going through batsmen.

When I was one of the last three on the bench I headed out to the nets for a warm-up.

Ludicrously, my legs were too thin to do the pads up with the Velcro and I had to tie the straps in a knot. Still, I had fun in the nets, and by the final over was never expecting to hear the call.

Then, on the third ball of the final over we lost a batsman. The score was 121. One run to tie, two to win, three balls remaining as I trudged out to the pitch.

Our penultimate batsman was facing the bowler. With three balls left, I figured anything he hit might require running. So I edged forward from my crease, sort of forgetting it was his job to call the runs.

A nice straight block sent the ball back down the pitch towards me, where a quick-witted fielder took it, saw me out of my crease, and pegged it at the stumps.

A lunge with my bat was, lamentably, not enough to save my ignoble 45 seconds on the pitch.

Still, at least everyone on the team – and I do mean just about everyone – was courteous enough to think the result close enough that it was some decisive personal contribution of their own that had sealed the defeat.

A good game though, and a great result for Churchill who were so short of players last year that I was sent in to bat for them …

Friday, May 12, 2006

Why have I not been blogging of late? Well, frankly the weather has been too good. I've been trying to work dilligently through to the early afternoon (a point between 3 and 6 pm depending on the dilligence and virtue of friends) and then hit a beer garden.

Anyway, mostly for my mother I've put some photos of the flowers and blossom where I live under 2006 Spring at Wychfield.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare to give an international law tutorial on the lawn outside ...

Monday, May 1, 2006

Darfur: background to the conflict in the Sudan

The high-water mark for peace prospects in Sudan probably came in 2004 with an agreement between the UN and the Sudanese government that it would disarm militias and facilitate humanitarian aid efforts. Eventually, 2000 African Union troops were deployed to the Darfur region. However, peace talks between the government and the two rebel factions (the Movement for Justice and Equality and the Sudanese Liberation Army) have consistently stalled over disarmament.

Two years of hand-wringing later and the UN has managed only limited sanctions against Sudanese leaders and a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court. The ICC, of course, will not be able to act until after the dust has settled – having no power or ability to swoop in and seize suspects.

The stalemate arises from the fact that the Sudanese government won’t allow UN peacekeepers in until a peace agreement with the rebel factions has been signed.

According to the New York Times, the UN Security Council doesn’t want to send a force in as a compulsory measure under Chapter VII for a number of reasons. First, China and Russia would not support such a move. Both China and Russia have strong economic links with Sudan, especially China which accounts for 64% of Sudanese exports and 10% of its imports. Second, there has not exactly been a rush to volunteer peacekeeping troops by the international community.

But what are the origins of the conflict? Typically, the Guardian has an excellent interactive timeline and Le Monde has quite a good summary of more recent events.

Sudan is ethnically, religiously and linguistically divided between a predominantly Arab/Muslim north and an African/Christian (and Animist) South. In Darfur province in the Northwest the janjaweed militia (basically government proxies) have been attempting to drive out ethnic Africans. There are many internally displaced persons as a result, and many international refugees who have crossed into Chad.

The situation has certainly heightened Chad/Sudan tension, with both sides accusing the other of supporting anti-government rebel groups within its territory.

While there were Christians in the Sudan area in the sixth century, the present conflict probably has nineteenth century roots. In 1882 a rebellion expelled Egyptian and British colonial rule and established a strict Islamic state; the rebellion was only suppressed by the colonizers in 1889. Sudan was then jointly administered by Egypt and the UK until its independence in 1956.

Promises of self-rule for the south within a federal system were reneged upon by the new independence government sparking civil war from 1955 to 1972. The war was rekindled in 1983 following the imposition of Sharia law on non-Islamic people in the South. Another possible reason for the central government’s reluctance to relinquish any control of the South is that it holds 75% of Sudanese oil fields.

That said, the present rebels in Darfur (the northwest) are a somewhat separate issue from the old North-South civil war, except insofar as the conflict has clear ethnic overtones with Arab militias (backed by an Arab government) attempting to displace the African locals.